2012 Elections

Dr. Bill Quirk

I support Dr. Bill Quirk’s candidacy for the 20th District of California’s State Assembly. Bill is uniquely qualified to hold this office. As a scientist and former consultant at McKinsey, his instincts about policy are analytical, rigorous, and measured. He has a strong record of environmental leadership and a systematic understanding of energy and its complex interaction with our environment and our economy. Most importantly, Bill is unwavering in his support for education in California and, unlike his opponent, fights to secure its adequate funding. Bill has been a public servant for much of his career, first in our National Laboratories, where his work contributed to nuclear weapons security, safety, and disarmament, but also later in Hayward’s city government. Bill Quirk is the sole candidate of the Democratic Party in this race, and he has been endorsed by organizations including the League of Conservation Voters, the California Federation of Teachers, the California Nurses Association, on the one hand, and numerous public safety unions, chambers of commerce, and business interests, on the other. I am confident that, once elected, he will have the skills and clout to be not just an effective representative, but also a leader in our State Assembly.

Below, I’ve provided copies of a few of Bill’s scientific publications and related press about him. At age 24, Bill Quirk took the Ph.D. in astrophysics from Columbia University, where he developed n-body dynamical models to probe formation and evolution of spiral galaxies and the stellar dynamics within them . He later developed some of the first robust computational climate models at NASA’s Goddard Institute of Space Sciences . These models allowed climate scientists to conduct simulated experiments over long timescales and to test hypotheses about complex planetary phenomena. For example, in a 1971 Science publication , Quirk applied such tools to understand the positive feedback mechanism by which the loss of plant cover can perpetuate a drought. In his 1981 paper, also in Science , James Hansen employed a simple one-dimensional analogue of this work to demonstrate that carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere would result in a global temperature rise. As computational capabilities increased, climate scientists were able to use the GISS models to peer further into the future; they also included more complex and detailed mathematical descriptions of climate-related phenomena. In 1988, a three-dimensional general circulation model of Earth’s climate , one whose origins lie in Bill’s work, predicted that global warming would be evident within the next decades. This model was the basis of Hansen’s pivotal testimony before the Senate’s Energy and Natural Resources Committee and marks the beginning of serious popular concern about global warming.

As a member of Hayward’s city council, Bill Quirk understood the long-term effects of climate change in the Bay Area and sought to explore cost-effective mechanisms for their mitigation. His work was discussed in a Scientific American article, “After the Deluge,” quoted below.

Scientific American (click for PDF).

 One persistent individual has instilled a long-term view in Hayward, Calif., on the eastern shore of San Francisco Bay. When Bill Quirk, a former NASA climate modeler and nuclear arms expert, won a seat on the city council in 2004, he repeatedly tried to get the city to pay attention to the threat of sea-level rise.

Then, on New Year’s Eve 2005–2006, storm waves at high tide crashed over the city’s protective levees, causing heavy damage. At Quirk’s behest, the Hayward Area Shoreline Planning Agency scraped up $30,000 to study solutions. In centuries past, sediment washing down creeks and streams built up wetlands along the bay, creating buers against storm waves. But once the streams were channeled into culverts and pipes, the sediment began flowing out into the bay instead, where it fills in marinas and shipping channels. The agency hopes to start pilot projects that would allow some water and sediment to once again wash back out into the wetlands to help sustain them.

After NASA, Bill was a consultant at McKinsey and a manager in Silicon Valley. He then joined Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and made important contributions to our nation’s security through analyses related to nuclear proliferation and the life cycle of fissile materials. His work helped justify the decommissioning of the Rocky Flats site in Colorado, and he also played an important role in the negotiation of the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty.


Building a nuclear bomb takes so much less plutonium or uranium than generally believed that new safeguards must be adopted as part of a global tightening of defenses against the criminal diversion of atomic materials, private experts argue in a new proposal. William J. Quirk, a nuclear-weapon expert at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California, said that for the moment the exact figure was less important than a public discussion. […] “I think it’s the right thing to start the debate and then people can decide what they want to do.”

Bill Quirk’s testimony before Hayward City Council

Bill Quirk and Jennifer Ong appear before the League of Women Voters



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